MANTALK: How to raise the boy child

Anyone who claims to have the handbook on parenting should be flogged in public. PHOTO| FILE |NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Girls!” he screeches, throwing his hand in the air. “It’s Jennifer and Laura and Kimberly and Janice... not a single boy goes up to receive one award. Not one Felix!”
  • Just keep raising these silly boys who you call daddy and papa. Soft little boys with potty names.
  • Who will these daughters marry or date? Will they be so self-sufficient that they will live in a vacuum you create?

“I go to school and it’s terrible what I see,” the guy in the gaudy polo shirt says.

“They call out names for the best student in math or social studies or whatever and guess who goes up to pick these awards?” Nobody says anything because it's a rhetorical question.

“Girls!” he screeches, throwing his hand in the air. “It’s Jennifer and Laura and Kimberly and Janice... not a single boy goes up to receive one award. Not one Felix!”

Someone starts to say something. He cuts them short: “I’m not finished, shut it.”

We cackle.

He sits up in his chair. “I’m raising a pair of very strong girls,” he presses on, his voice rising like a bad omen.

“I’m raising a pair of very strong girls who will make boys piss in their pants!”

‘BOYS WHO WON’T KNOW HOW TO BE MEN’

We all laugh. Amongst us is an almost empty bottle of whisky. It’s our second one. We are seated in a banda in one of the koroga places. The man with the terrible polo shirt is drunk, or getting there.

“And you two!” he says, pointing at me and the gentleman seated next to me who we shall call Paul.

“Just keep raising these silly boys who you call daddy and papa. Soft little boys with potty names. Boys who won’t know how to be men because they were raised by boys like you. In fact, shave your beard, Biko.”

We all laugh, the five or six of us around the table, some of whom are women. He points a finger (the nail on it looks like he gave half of it as tip at the butchery) at me and Paul and says,

“Mark my words, this will not end well for those sons of yours.”

Oh we tremble in our boots. We tremble for the fate of our sons and the fate of all the boys raised by men with beards who will have the great misfortune of meeting this guy’s daughters.

Paul says, “What would you like us to call these boys? They are babies for crying out loud. A three-year old being called Papa won’t completely ruin his adult life! And who will these daughters marry or date? Will they be so self-sufficient that they will live in a vacuum you create? Are you also teaching them to be solitary and live like rocks?”

I laugh loudly, just to annoy the man with the bad shirt.

“Answer the man!” I howl. “Will these girls date and marry men or will they marry other women? Who do you think your daughter will one day bring home to meet you and say ‘Dad, I met a guy I like?’ What if it turns out to be one of the boys who you threaten with piss in their pants? What will you do then?”

“I will kick the silly boy out of my house! And you can write that in your newspaper column instead of writing about women’s panties.”

The table plunges into such rapturous laughter that I want to weep.

Then he shouts petulantly, “And please pass the drink, why are you hogging the drink? Pass the damn drink, bwana.”

It’s after 10pm. We really should be leaving now given that we have been there since 2pm. Besides, there are some men with curfews. The loudest always have curfews.

CLAIMING TO HAVE THE HANDBOOK ON PARENTING SHOULD INCUR FLOGGING

What the man in a terrible shirt is saying is that the boy child is under siege. Girls are getting stronger. And that there is an argument that a wolf can’t raise a lion, that the modern male is ill equipped to raise boys.

I don’t believe in this doom theory because I don’t believe there is a formula for raising boys or girls. No father says, “Oh there is my seven-year old son brushing his teeth, let me go ask him about school but I have to be careful how I ask him because it has to be different to how I ask my daughter about school lest he becomes a thug in future.”

And who the hell knows the secret for raising children, anyway? Anybody who claims to have the handbook on parenting should be tied to a post in a public market and handed seven lashes on the bare buttocks. Some of us were raised by single mothers and they turned out to be better fathers than those who had fathers in their lives.

There are boys who were orphaned and raised by beasts for aunties and absent uncles yet they have turned out to be admirable fathers. I think if we show our sons certain values (even though we might not embody them) they will turn out okay.

Before Bill Cosby was accused of raping all those women, I bought his book Fatherhood, a useful book for dads. On page 91 is a chapter called “Batter Up” that I love. It’s generally about the “voice” of a man in a child’s life. It’s about your son knowing that should he decide to become an ass he will have to face you – a prospect he doesn’t want – no matter how chummy you are.

So, yes, no boys of ours will piss in their pants faced with the meeting the two girls who belong to the loudmouth at our table. They will turn out great – and they will have much better taste in shirts.

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